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A New Option for Capital Crescent Trail Tunnel in Bethesda

As the Washington Post reported recently, Montgomery County planners are working on a plan to redevelop the Apex Building in downtown Bethesda to better accommodate the Purple line’s western terminus. As currently planned, the Bethesda station for the Purple line will be tightly squeezed into the space under the Apex Building. This will force the Capital Crescent Trail out of the tunnel. In early 2012, the Montgomery County Council voted against spending over $50 million to keep the trail in the tunnel due to the high costs of the project and potential of damage to the buildings above during construction.

However, if the county is successful in encouraging the building’s owners to demolish and rebuild the Apex Building, another option would exist. A newly designed Apex Building would allow Purple line planners to build a larger and more efficient station platform, tracks, and connection to Metro’s Red line station. There would also be space for a new Capital Crescent tunnel.

The Montgomery County Department of Transportation has been working over the past year to plan and design a surface route for the Capital Crescent Trail that includes an at-grade crossing at Wisconsin Avenue. Additionally, Council President Roger Berlinger has tasked MCDOT with building a “gold standard” trail experience for the crossing of Wisconsin Avenue. This new opportunity is an exciting development to provide a grade separated crossing for the trail across the busy state highway.

To prepare for the final design and construction of the Purple line, county planners are working fast to prepare a plan for the redevelopment of the Apex Building. Purple Line planners are hoping to finish the final design in 2014, begin construction in 2015, and open for revenue service in 2020. The county planning department will host three public open houses in September to explain its plans and answer questions.

Please consider attending one of the public open houses and expressing your support for a Capital Crescent Trail tunnel through Bethesda. The official meeting announcement from the planning department is below:

The Planning Department will hold Open House Previews of Staff Recommendations for the Bethesda Purple Line Station Plan, at the Bethesda Regional Services Center, located at 4805 Edgemoor Lane near the intersection of Woodmont Avenue and Old Georgetown Road. Enter on the plaza level above Chipotle. Each session will include the same information.

The sessions will be held:

* Tuesday, September 3, 2013, 6-9pm
* Saturday, September 7, 2013, 10am-2pm
* Monday, September 9, 2013, 6-9pm.

Please drop in any time during the Open House to learn more about this limited plan and share your thoughts, questions, and comments with the Planning Department team. Staff will prepare a handout summarizing the recommendations for the Open House sessions and will post it online when it is available.

For more information, questions, or to join the mailing list:
Project email:    bethesdapurpleline@montgomeryplanning.org
Website:              www.montgomeryplanning.org/bethesda_purple_line
Twitter:                @bethesdaPL, #bethesdapurpleline
Facebook:           Bethesda Purple Line Station Plan
Phone:                 301.495.2115, Elza Hisel-McCoy, Lead Planner

Image via Washington Post


At the County Council hearing last night it was clear that there will be no money and no deadline for any tunnel under the proposed and near final "Minor Amendment" to the Master Plan to re-designate and use Elm Street Park as the Bethesda Purple Line Station and to authorize rebuilding the Apex Building to a height of 250 feet.  Therefore the trail will be shunted off through the Park and into the face of one-way traffic for two narrow blocks and then across Wisconsin at an already dangerous intersection and down into another intersection past what is now and may remain for some time a narrow street partially blocked for construction cranes.


We need to be clear that we need BOTH the "gold standard" surface route crossing of Wisconsin Ave. that MCDOT has started to develop, and also a grade-separated tunnel route that this new opportunity presents.

We will need the surface route as the only route open to trail users during the years-long teardown of the Apex Bldg., building the Purple Line station, and building a new building overhead.  And many cyclists will prefer to use a surface route with a cycletrack down Bethesda Ave. over riding/walking through the Woodmont Plaza/Purple Line station area and tunnel which will be congested by pedestrians using transit or just "hanging out" in the Plaza area.


@JohnMFitzgerald No one will be riding "into the face of one-way traffic".  The surface trail route is being designed as a full width two way trail physically separated from the one-way street traffic lanes.  The crossing at Wisconson Ave. will be realigned.  The construction cranes for the Lot 31 project will be gone before the Purple Line construction can begin.  Your statements are very misleading.

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